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Cheat sheet: The rise and rise of plant-based eating 

New research has found a third of New Zealanders are actively reducing their meat consumption or have cut it out entirely.

What’s this nonsense? Meat and three veg all the way for us Kiwis, surely?

Apparently not – a newly released study found 31% of New Zealanders can be categorised as flexitarian or meat-reducers, while a further 3% were vegetarian or vegan.

Says who?

The study’s legit – conducted by Colmar Brunton, it was commissioned by Food Frontier, an Australasian think tank and alternative protein industry advisor, and vegetarian food manufacturer Life Health Foods, which is owned by Sanitarium. It asked 1107 New Zealanders about their meat consumption, finding an 18% increase in those whose diets were categorised as flexitarian (eating meat one to four times per week) in the past year. 

All those bloody millennials, I’d imagine?

The vegans and vegetarians were most likely to be millennials, yes, but the flexitarian cohort was led by Gen X, while those who have reduced their meat consumption in the last year were most likely to be baby boomers. 

All Aucklanders of course?

Vegans are more likely to reside in Tāmaki Makaurau, yes, whereas vegetarians are mostly found in Wellington and meat reducers in Northland and Waikato.

Why on earth are they doing it?

Health, mainly, closely followed by the environment, animal welfare, cost and the increasing variety of plant-based options available.

What are they eating? 

Six in 10 had tried or were interested in trying the “new generation” plant-based meat products that are designed to mimic meat.

They must be being tricked, surely!

Despite claims from meat producers over the years, 94% of New Zealanders had never mistakenly purchased a plant-based product thinking it was its meat-based counterpart, or vice versa. The 6% who had were more likely to be vegetarian or vegan.

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Has there been any research like this before?

In 2016, a Roy Morgan poll found 10.3% of New Zealanders were vegetarian or “mostly vegetarian” (the vagueness of the “mostly” is not particularly helpful, but I guess we can equate that with what’s now commonly described as flexitarianism). 

How do we compare with the rest of the world? 

The same study was conducted in Australia, with similar results – though more of our Aussie mates are vegetarian or vegan (10%). A 2016 report found around a third of Britons were also reducing meat consumption, while two-thirds of Americans said they were eating less of at least one kind of meat in 2015. According to 2013 data, New Zealanders, Australians, Americans and Argentineans are the world’s biggest meat eaters, consuming more than 100kg per person a year. And despite what people’s intentions may be, statistics show that in the US and Europe, at least, meat consumption has actually increased in recent years. In New Zealand, our beef and lamb consumption has decreased, but our poultry and pork consumption has gone up, meaning overall meat consumption has remained roughly the same between 2004 and 2018, according to OECD data.


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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